Advocates hope rookie minister acts quickly to tackle a wave of overdose deaths

published on July 28, 2023 by Darren Major in CBC News

Ya’ara Saks, Canada’s new minister of mental health and addictions, inherits a complex portfolio and an opioid crisis that has only gotten worse in almost every year since 2016.

Advocates and addictions experts say they would like to see the new minister take a holistic approach to the crisis and act swiftly to champion and expand harm reduction policies.

More than 36,000 people in Canada died of opioid overdoses between 2016 and 2022 — roughly 20 people per day in 2022 alone.

Saks is a relatively new MP — she was elected in a 2020 by-election. She’s taking over a relatively new file that was created in 2021. This is her first ministerial position.

Saks said she was “honoured” to be appointed minister and vowed to tackle the crisis.

“We will use every tool at our disposal to work with our partners to deliver services when and where they are needed to end this crisis,” she said, in a statement to CBC.

Dr. Paxton Bach, an addictions specialist and co-medical director of the B.C. Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU), said he hopes Saks will be a “strong and outspoken advocate for the type of system change that we need in order to turn the tide.”…

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